Rolex - The Geneva Watch Auction: XV Geneva Saturday, May 7, 2022 | Phillips
  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: Circa 1959
    Reference No: 6542
    Movement No: DN891915
    Case No: 482'084
    Model Name: GMT-Master
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 1066, "butterfly" rotor, 25 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Rolex Oyster riveted "Big Logo" bracelet stamped "65" to the endlinks, max length 205mm
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Rolex deployant clasp stamped "4 58" and hand-engraved "92808"
    Dimensions: 38mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and clasp signed
    Accessories: Accompanied by Rolex Guarantee stamped by Singapore retailer "Chusan Limited" and dated December 5, 1959, COSC certification dated November 10, 1959,blank Chronometer Certificate card, original instructions, 5 documents detailing a 1987 service (watch consignment letter from the owner dated August 3, 1987, Rolex reception slip dated August 14, 1987, Rolex service quote and accompanying letter both dated August 26, 1987, service invoice dated September 3, 1987) and undated test report

  • Catalogue Essay

    This example of reference 6542 is distinguished by its immaculate dial condition and the presence of its original Guarantee, COSC certificate and box. With only a trace of spiderwebbing - for the keenest eyes to spot - hinting at its age, it features an impressively shiny zapon finish, without the bubbles or crazing often seen on dials of this age. The luminous material of the indexes is fully original and has aged evenly to a charming camel hue. The “small arrow” (“freccino”, in Italian) 24-hour hand is another original and appealing detail.
    With a serial number in the high four hundred thousands, the present example dates from 1959, and indeed the inside of the back is stamped III.59. The bracelet as well we believe to be original to the watch, as it bears a Big Logo clasp stamped 4.58 - perfectly consistent with the watch’s production year. It is important to point out the rarity and collectability of such Big Logo bracelet, which were made for only 3 years from 1958 to 1960.

    The watch furthermore features a bakelite bezel devoid of cracks. While it is a tritium bezel - so a 1960s service, most likely replaced during the famous 6542 recall campaign Rolex did at the beginning of that decade once the dangers of radium were recognised - it is very rare to find a bakelite bezel in such intact condition: the material is very prone to cracking, which is the reason why it was later substituted with metal.

    An added layer of interest is provided by the accompanying documents detailing a service made in 1987: the consignment letter from the owner (Mr. P. Harrison) dated August 3, the reception slip by Rolex dated August 18, a quote and accompanying letter dated August 23, and finally the service invoice dated September 3.
    From these documents it is apparent not only that servicing a vintage Rolex watch was much faster and cheaper back in the days, but also how nondescript such vintage GMT pieces - now considered monuments to the history of Rolex - were deemed 30 years ago. The Rolex letter is equally informative and - in hindsight - hilarious: “…we must point out that the watch is an early model … for which spare parts …. are extremely limited. …. Under these circumstances we leave it to your discretion to decide whether or not …. repairs are economically viable”. The service cost about 100 GBP.

    First released in in 1954, the GMT-Master reference 6542 was designed for pilots to use in their line of work. With the rise of international travel in the 1940s and 1950s, Rolex initially created the model for Pan Am airlines to track dual time zones. This ingenious design featured an immediately recognizable bakelite bezel with the twenty-four hour numerals painted on the underside, made to glow in any weather condition. Bakelite was Rolex's original material of choice, due to its low reflectivity and high readability. The additional luminous 24 hour tipped hand allowed the viewer to immediately track a second time zone.

  • Artist Biography


    Swiss • 1905

    Founded in 1905 England by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis as Wilsdorf & Davis, it soon became known as the Rolex Watch Company in 1915, moving its headquarters to Geneva in 1919. Like no other company, the success of the wristwatch can be attributed to many of Rolex's innovations that made them one of the most respected and well-known of all luxury brands. These innovations include their famous "Oyster" case — the world's first water resistant and dustproof watch case, invented in 1926 — and their "Perpetual" — the first reliable self-winding movement for wristwatches launched in 1933. They would form the foundation for Rolex's Datejust and Day-Date, respectively introduced in 1945 and 1956, but also importantly for their sports watches, such as the Explorer, Submariner and GMT-Master launched in the mid-1950s.

    One of its most famous models is the Cosmograph Daytona. Launched in 1963, these chronographs are without any doubt amongst the most iconic and coveted of all collectible wristwatches. Other key collectible models include their most complicated vintage watches, including references 8171 and 6062 with triple calendar and moon phase, "Jean Claude Killy" triple date chronograph models and the Submariner, including early "big-crown" models and military-issued variants.

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Ref. 6542
A very well preserved and highly striking stainless steel dual-time wristwatch with center seconds, date, "Pepsi" revolving bakelite bezel, bracelet, guarantee and chronometer certificate

Circa 1959
38mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement and clasp signed

CHF90,000 - 160,000 

Sold for CHF138,600

Contact Specialist

Alexandre Ghotbi
Head of Watches, Continental Europe and the Middle East

+41 22 317 81 81

Tiffany To
Head of Sale, Geneva

+41 22 317 96 63

The Geneva Watch Auction: XV

Geneva Auction 7 - 8 May 2022